Egypt Denies Travelers at Border – Crossing border to Egypt, part 1 of 3
After leaving the hotel in Eilat at the first glimmers of dawn, Chaya and I went to the bus stop in search of a ride to the Egyptian border. This bus was said to only cost 5 sheckles ($1.25) — not bad. It is only a pity that this was one of those buses that never arrive.
An old lady who knew what we were up to told us that the bus did not stop where we were waiting for it and that we would have to go to the main street around the corner. We looked up at the bus stop sign overhead: it had the number of the bus that we were waiting for printed clearly upon it. But, as we had been waiting at the stop for nearly a half hour, we figured that it would not be detrimental to walk down to the road that goes to Egypt.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Egypt- May, 2009
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We did so, found another bus stop that had our bus’ number printed on it, and we sat and waited. Another 15 minutes go by, then a half hour, then 45 minutes. We had a lot of traveling to do on this day. Where was the bus?
Throughout all of this, the taxi vultures were picking at our idle carcasses. We were chunks of backpacker carrion as we sat at this bus stop on the main street of Eilat, obviously wanting to go to Egypt. Each taxi that drove by, stopped to offer us a ride — they yelled, they acted excited, they pleaded with us to get it.
We stayed put at the bust stop.
“Bus don’t come for one hour,” the taxi drivers warned.
Perhaps, but the taxi prices were high. 40 sheckles ($10) was the starting price for a 10 km ride. The bus was to cost five. We turned down taxi after taxi, but as time went by with no sign of a border bound bus, we began to loosely negotiate with the drivers just to find out where we stood. It became apparent that we could talk them down to 30 sheckles without difficulty.
But we continued waiting for the bus: there is a big difference between 10 and 30 Israeli sheckles.
The sun was now fully shinning above the horizon, and after more than an hour into our 10km journey to Egypt, we had not gotten anywhere. We needed to move.
A darker skinned young taxi driver pulled up to our feasting station. I approached the window.
30 sheckles, he offered.
20 sheckles, I countered.
We settled on 25.
Into the cab Chaya and I jumped, and we were on our way to Egypt.
The driver was around my age and seemed to be a different breed of taxi man: he was clean cut, friendly, and did not give the impression that he was drooling for a taste of my spleen. In point, he seemed to be a regular fellow who just happened to make a living driving a taxi and not a Taxi Man.
“I am a Bedouin,” he told us, “When you get to Egypt, tell the Sinai Bedouins that the Israeli Bedouins say hello.”
I promised that I would. We all laughed.
I asked him if it was difficult being an Arab in Israel. He said that it wasn’t.
Soon enough, we were at the border. I paid up and waved goodbye to the driver. He waved back to us with a big smile.
Running for the border, we were met with an unexpected force of stagnation: the gate was closed. There was a group of female German backpackers curled up around each other at the entrance of the immigration post. They looked as if they had been there for a long while. Some of them were sleeping.
I woke one of the up. “What is going on?” I asked.
A groggy German girl answered drearily, “The border is closed because of a security problem. They said that it could be hours before it is open again. We are going to be here all day.”
The time was ticking. We needed to get across this border fast. I heaved a big sigh at the big closed barricaded that blocked my way to Cairo.
Chaya and I sat on our backpacks and looked out over the Red Sea. The sunlight danced glistening sort of jive over the gentle waves. It was a beautiful day. We stopped our running minds and just sat and enjoyed what we thought would be our last moments in Israel.
10 minutes go by.
Then a Hebrew cackle comes across the walky talky that is strapped to the belt of a young faced and casually dressed soldier with — of course — a rather large machine gun slug over one shoulder. My ears perked up. He opened the gate. A women then appeared and invited us to exit her country. We did so with smiles.
On to Egypt
Chaya and I approached this new country with hope. Devoid of visas, hope was all we had to enter Egypt on. I joked with the security guard in a spotless white suit who checked our passports at the first stage of the border crossing.
He looked at Chaya’s passport.
“Ugly, isn’t she,” I remarked.
“No, no,” he replied, “I think you are the ugly one.”
He laughed and passed us through to immigration. We walked through a metal detector. All of the guards were real friendly and asked us by-the-way questions as we walked by.
We approached the immigration booth. On its outer wall there was pasted an old, torn up sign that said the following: “If you have a visa please notify the official.”
“Visa” was a painful word for us to read.
We approached the official. “We are going to Cairo, we need a visa.”
He looked through my passport.
“Do you have a visa?” he asked.
“No, we need visas, we have a flight leaving from Cairo and we need visas.”
He continued looking though my passport. He then set it down on his desk and picked up Chaya’s.
“Do you have visas?” he asked again.
“No, we need visas,” I reiterated.
He looked through our passports again just to make sure that a couple of Egyptian visas did not somehow jump into them on their own accord when we weren’t looking. Needless to say, he did not find any miracles.
He then looked up at us:
“No visa, no Cairo,” he spoke proudly.
I watched Chaya’s face fall. I am sure that mine did, too.
“I thought that we could buy visas here at the border.”
“No visa, no Cairo!” the immigration official repeated his mantra.
He then lead us into an office that was on the side of the immigration hall. Inside we found two important looked Egyptians in important looking costumes. One man was sitting behind a big oak desk and another was sitting in front of him. They seemed to be talking important business. The man behind the desk was well built, and had frills dangling from the shoulders of a fancy white suit that was nearly completely decorated with medals and shiny pins.
I figured that this was the guy I should plead our case to. He looked at us blankly as we entered his office. It seemed as if we were interrupting his all day desk-front siesta. The immigration official who proudly stated, “no visa, no Cairo,” explained what was going on in Arabic. The frilly shouldered big fellow just shook his dumb head.
“No visa, no Cairo,” he joined in on the ensemble.
“But I thought that we could buy a visa at the border.”
He shook his big dumb head again.
“I thought that we could pay for a visa at the border,” I repeated.
The frilly shouldered man shook his big dumb head a third time.
“But we were told that it is possible to give money here for a visa.”
We were sent out of the office.
My attempts at bribing our way into Egypt fell flat.
We were kicked back to Israel.
We walked passed the joking border guard.
“What happened?” he asked, knowing damn well what had happened.
With a laugh, the old border guard opened the gate and kicked us out of his country before we even entered it.
Map of overland route of travel from Jordan to Egypt via Israel.
Read about the full journey crossing the border from Israel to Egypt
Part 1- Egypt Denies Travelers at Border
Part 2- Crossing back to Israel
Part 3- Egyptian Visas vs. Sinai Travel Permits
Egypt Denies Travelers at Border – Crossing border to Egypt, part 1 of 3